ONCE upon a time, a young woman spent hours dreaming of a world in which she owned her own bookshop, full of lovely stories which made people smile and helped them feel good about themselves.

Like every good tale, this is one with ups and downs along the way. Thankfully, it does have a happy ending.

Emma Frew’s dream has come true and her ‘little bookshop full of love’ called It’s Meant to Be is online.

“One day I’d love to have premises, of course,” she says, adding with a laugh: “That whole Meg Ryan thing in You’ve Got Mail… but for the moment, online is great. Already, people have been so kind about it all, which is amazing.”

Former freelance copywriter Emma grew up in Cumbernauld, where she fell in love with love and romance.

“I was a massive fan of romance novels,” she says, smiling. “When I was younger, it was Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries which started it. Then I discovered Jane Austen’s Emma and Pride and Prejudice; and contemporary romance novels, like Sarah Morgan’s works….

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“I am also a huge fan of self-help books – there are so many great titles out there dedicated to wellness, and these in particular helped me when I was ill.”

After a bout of chickenpox in her early 20s, Emma was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease which causes extreme tiredness and other symptoms.

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“I looked into all the options, and found lots of really great books that helped me manage my condition,” she explains.

“My bookshop has a big section on self-care as a result, so that feels like a bit of a ‘full circle’ moment. If I can help other people, it will feel a bit like giving something back.”

Romance novels are big business - recent research suggested one is bought in the UK every two seconds - but they are still dismissed as ‘cheesy’, says Emma.

“There are only a handful of specialist bookshops dedicated to the genre around the world,” she says. “And yet, there are countless bookshops dedicated to sci-fi, or comic books. It is almost like romance is seen as too cheesy, or throwaway – not a ‘real’ genre. But the sales of romance books are increasing, and with Netflix now buying lots of these kinds of books and turning them into movies, there is more interest than ever.”

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She adds: “If people open their minds to it, they’ll see the genre includes so much, from classics and historical fiction to contemporary novels and self-care.”

It’s Meant to Be is truly a one-woman operation. As well as organising shipping through a wholesaler, Emma designed the website and branding and handles marketing and enquiries. It’s a big step for the 30-year-old, who still has to cope with the effects of her diagnosis.

“It is hard work, but I’ve been so happy with the response,” she says. “My diagnosis meant I had to change my plans but the start of lockdown gave me time to re-think what I wanted to do.

“And if I can do something that gives people even an ounce of joy when we are living through such awful times, then that feels great.”